“My wife has cancer”… Four words, but one impossible thing to say.
I was diagnosed with grade 3 HER2 positive breast cancer in March 2017. It was, of course, a shock to me and my husband. But both at the point of diagnosis and as I went through the treatment, I knew my husband didn’t want to talk about it. He wanted his life just carry on as normal: work trips, socials, sports events. He well and truly buried his head in the sand.
At the time my children were 12 years old and 14 years old. Even though both were very grown up about the whole situation I could see my youngest struggling. She, rather than my husband, took on the role of carer: wanting to spend all her time with me, wanting to come to the endless appointments with me, holding my jumper up for me when I used to have to inject myself. Just generally trying to make me laugh, and we did laugh a lot…but I had to make sure that I gave her lots of support.
It was a very tough and often quite a lonely time. But, I have the most amazing group of friends and being able to get back work part time, get to my yoga mat and yoga family really helped me not to feel so lonely.
One cold, wet November morning the hugest bouquet of flowers arrived. It was such a lovely surprise but I couldn’t work out why my husband’s company had sent them: it was odd given I’d been diagnosed quite a number of months earlier. I asked him later that day about the flowers, “Oh because I told a few people this week about you, thought I should as we have the work Christmas party next month.” I was completely shocked, I had no idea that he hadn’t told anyone about my diagnosis. He hadn’t been able to say “my wife has cancer”.
For 7 months he had watched me struggle with the all the treatments and hadn’t been able to share that with anyone. Not even the best-man from our wedding had any idea. Being unable to support me or the kids suddenly made sense. Getting up and leaving the house while I was talking to the children about me starting chemo made sense. He just couldn’t say it out loud. He was in total denial. It had taken my husband 7 months to share the news with his work colleagues that his wife had breast cancer. During that time, I’d had 2 lumpectomies, lymph nodes removed, 6 rounds of chemo, lost my hair, 30 rounds of radiotherapy and was having the Herceptin injection every 3 weeks.
I suppose any kind of stress or strain or any devastating news can test a relationship. And my breast cancer had tested our relationship to the core.
My message is that not everyone has a “rock” in their life. Not everyone has someone to lean on. And not everyone can say, “I couldn’t have got through it without them”. But I did get through it though, cancer that is, and in July 2018 I finished my treatment and threw myself an end of treatment party! So, although I have 8 more years of tamoxifen, I’m feeling positive about the future.
If I made it through cancer I can make it through anything, right?
I wake up and I remember I’ve got cancer. It’s the first thought of most days.
I remember that my Husband, who is lying next to me, no longer loves me.
I get on with the day.
Realise how lucky I am to be outside working on a beautiful spring day with people who care about me.
I realise that my Husband isn’t going to call me.
Have a drink to block it all out.
Realise that my Husband is on his way home.
I always enjoy sitting with kids while they eat their dinner.
Listening to teenage banter, makes me laugh.
Drink more and remember that the man I am sitting with eating dinner no longer
I go to bed.
Angry, sad, upset, scared, frightened and lonely.
I wake up and remember that I have cancer.
Try to get on with the day.
Act all strong and try to make it business as usual.
Apart from when I have a little cry at the bottom of someone’s garden.
I remember that the friend I’m walking the dogs with loves me and that the
friend I’m having dinner with tonight loves me and supports me daily and makes
me laugh so much.
I remember my children who have saved my life so many times, without even knowing, love me.
I realise that the man who has asked me to walk the dog with him and pop to the pub with him no longer loves me.
But then I remember all the text messages from the girls who love and support me every day.
I go to bed.
Confused, angry, upset and at a total loss.
I wake up and remember that I’ve got cancer.
Try and get up, I tell myself.
I get up and get on with the day as if nothing is wrong.
Then I remember that the man I married can no longer hug me like he means it, kiss me or tell me how he will do anything for me. How he will always be there for me, how he will go the extra mile for me. How he will fuss over me. How he will be there to pick up the pieces. How he will always be my best mate. He can’t say any of these things because he no longer loves me.
I go to bed and wait for the next day to start again, thankful that it will.